History of the University

Central State University’s history begins with our parent institution Wilberforce University, named in honor of the great abolitionist William Wilberforce. Established at Tawawa Springs, Ohio, in 1856, it is affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church and is one of the oldest Black-administered institutions of higher education in the nation.

In 1887, the Ohio General Assembly enacted legislation that created a Combined Normal and Industrial Department at Wilberforce University. The objectives of this new state-sponsored department were to provide teacher training and vocational education, and to stabilize these programs by assuring a financial base similar to that of other state-supported institutions.

The statute establishing the Combined Normal and Industrial Department declared that the institution was ‘open to all applicants of good and moral character’ thereby indicating no limitations as to race, color, sex, or creed. It was clear, however, that the Department and its successors were designed to serve the educational needs of African-American students.

Although this Department operated as part of Wilberforce University in most respects, a separate board of trustees was appointed to govern the state-financed operations. In 1941, the Department expanded from a two- to a four-year program, and in 1947, it legally split from Wilberforce, becoming the College of Education and Industrial Arts at Wilberforce. The name was changed in 1951 to Central State College, and in 1965, the institution achieved university status. The University has grown steadily since its’ founding. In recent years, it has added new academic programs, established a new College of Science and Engineering and constructed a new academic building and four new residence halls. This year it will complete construction of a new University Center, set to open Fall 2015.

In July 2012, Central State welcomed its eighth president, Dr. Cynthia Jackson-Hammond. Under this administration six compelling priorities for the University have been established: a quality academic experience; targeted student enrollment; improved retention rates; reduced time to degree; production of graduates with the knowledge, skills and dispositions for advanced studies and careers; and efficient and effective institutional operations.

New initiatives are in progress which include aggressive efforts to recruit college-ready students; increase student retention; enhancing the University’s image internally and externally through the embodiment of the tenets, Service...Protocol...Civility®; diversification of the student body through focused recruitment of local and international students; development of more fluid articulation agreements with community colleges and cooperative agreements with area universities; improved communications with students, staff, and alumni; development of the University’s 2014-2020 Strategic Plan; and the ongoing fusion of CSU’s mission with the Land-Grant mission resulting from the University’s federal designation in February, 2014.

Today, as an 1890 Land-Grant Institution, Central State University is expanding Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture and Mathematics (STEAM) academic programming, research and education; developing partnerships within Ohio’s agricultural industry; enhancing facilities; and engaging the local communities, all for the future growth and sustainability of the University.

Central State University embraces change; but one thing that has not changed is its continuing commitment to providing an excellent, affordable education to residents of Ohio and beyond. Our future is bright!


128 Years of Service and Excellence




Central State University Past/Present Presidents

  • Charles H. Wesley, 1947-1965
  • Dr. Harry E. Groves, 1965 to 1968
  • Dr. Herman R. Branson, 1968-1970
  • Dr. Lewis A. Jackson, 1970-1972
  • Dr. Lionel H. Newsom, 1972-1985
  • Dr. Arthur E. Thomas, 1985-1995
  • John W. Garland, Esq., 1997-2012
  • Dr. Cynthia Jackson-Hammond, 2012-present